GRACE BOOKS   7 comments


 I personally found Manning, Seamands, Smedes, and Yancey the best authors on the topic of grace. Their books are well written, profound, and powerful.  The books are listed by category and alphabetically by author, and I have provided a star system (only the 8 to 10 star books from my personal bibliography).  I would encourage readers to start with the 10-star books unless there is a specific topic of interest.

 GRACE (General)

 Capon, Robert Farrar, 1988. The parables of grace. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans
8* Capon basically divides the parables into kingdom parables, grace parables, and judgment parables (writing a book on each), believing that Jesus’ teaching fell into these categories chronologically. He is a good writer and has some insightful things to say, though his exegesis becomes contrived at points, especially in trying to prove that all the grace parables are meant to show death and resurrection.

McVey, Steve, 1995. Grace walk. Eugene, OR: Harvest House
7* A basic book on grace with some good thoughts.

 Manning, Brennan. 1986. Lion and lamb. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell.
9* Manning has lots of good ideas and stories on general catholic spirituality with an emphasis on grace. He reminds me of Yancey.

Manning, Brennan, 1990. The ragamuffin gospel: Good news for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt out. Portland, OR: Multnomah.
9* Manning’s one focus in his writings is grace, and he does a great job

Manning, Brennan, 1994. Abba’s child: The cry of the heart for intimate belonging. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
7* Manning writes again on grace, our acceptance by God, with some good insights and helpful illustrations as usual. He doesn’t have the depth which makes a second reading more beneficial, like Yancey.

Nouwen, Henri J. M. 1994. The return of the prodigal son. NY: Doubleday/Image.
8* This is a whole book explicating Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son, which has been a major source of Nouwen’s spiritual perspective. He sees himself first as the younger son, then as the elder, and finally as the father who is to welcome home other prodigals.

Piper, John. 1986. Desiring God: meditations of a Christian hedonist. Portland, OR: Multnomah
8* A book well written with many good illustrations with the basic premise that our life should be lived with the purpose of getting joy out of life. I think love would be a better foundation.


Chrnalogar, Mary Alice. 2000. Twisted Scriptures. Grand Rapids: Zondervan
10* This first-rate book evaluates fundamentalist/cult perspectives, patterns, manipulation, etc.

Ulstein, Stefan. 1995. Growing up fundamentalist: Journeys in legalism and grace. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
8* Simply a record of 22 out of more than 100 interviews Ulstein carried out among children of fundamentalist families. He introduces each anonymously with a brief bio, but presents the interview without elaboration or evaluation except for a brief introduction and conclusion to the book. The subjects say what one might expect.


 God’s Grace for Failure (forgiveness to overcome the condemnation of sin)

Kurtz, Ernest and Ketcham, Katherine. 1994. The spirituality of imperfection: Storytelling and the journey to wholeness. NY: Bantam.
10* This is a great book with lots of stories from various religious traditions with the theme that true spirituality acknowledges one’s defects instead of pretending (or aiming for) perfection.

God’s Grace for False Guilt (freedom to overcome the condemnation of legalism and legalists)

 Cloud, Henry Changes that heal
7* It is an interesting book which supposes the main needs we have for psychological health are bonding (belonging) and boundaries (independence). We need both and neither should compromise the other. We must own who we are (all that is within our boundaries) and not allow others to infringe on our boundaries (body, feelings, thoughts, behavior, attitudes, abilities, choices, desires, limits).

Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John. 1994. False assumptions: Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
10* Subtitled: Relief from 12 “Christian” beliefs that can drive you crazy. It is very strongly grounded in solid biblical exegesis that challenges traditional, simple-minded, conservative Christian (legalistic) resistance to the anthropological and spiritual perspectives of Christian counseling.

Johnson, Becca Cowan. 1996. Good guilt, bad guilt and what to do with each. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
10* Cowan’s book is not great literature, but is packed with insights on issues of guilt (legitimate and illegitimate) and how to deal with them.

Narramore, Bruce. 1984. No condemnation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan
9* This is a theological/ psychological study of the conscience. His basic idea is that feeling guilty is a bad thing and should not be used to motivate ourselves or others. He distinguishes this from godly sorrow, which focuses on how we have hurt others and God instead of on condemning ourselves as no good. The solution for a guilty (condemning) conscience is not to live morally, but to accept forgiveness. He makes guilty feelings and godly sorrow mutually contradictory categories without sufficiently proving this (subjectively the two seem linked and difficult to distinguish).

Nutt, Grady, 1971, Being me. Nashville: Broadman.
8* Nutt’s book is very short with the theme of being set free to be who we are and stop wearing masks because God loves us just the way we are.

Seamands, David. 1981. Healing for damaged emotions. Wheaton, IL: Victor.
8* Seamands is one of the best authors on grace. In this book he deals in a good, basic way with issues of living without grace. Since he first wrote, much of what he says has been covered so often as to now be repetitive. He concentrates on low self-esteem and perfectionism.

Seamands, David A., 1988. Healing grace. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
10* This is a very good summary of the problem and solution to performance based Christianity, identifying the roots, describing the nature, and recommending the solutions.

 Smedes, Lewis B. 1993. Shame and grace: Healing the shame we don’t deserve. San Francisco: Harper Collins.
10* He has good insights on the issues of true and false shame–what they are, where they come from, and how to be healed from them.

Tournier, Paul. 1962. Guilt and grace: A psychological study. (trans. by Arthur W. Heathcote, assist. by J.J. Henry and P.J. Allcock) NY: Harper & Row
10* A very insightful and well written book on the topic of false and true guilt and overcoming it by grace

God’s Grace for Goodness (power to overcome the bondage of sin)

Grounds, Vernon. 1976. Emotional Problems and the gospel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
8* This is a well written book dealing with personal struggles of anxiety, anger, pride, and guilt with Biblical solutions and a gentle critique of psychology.

God’s Grace for Suffering (comfort to overcome the pain of sin)

Bunyan, John. 1959. Grace abounding to the chief of sinners. (rewritten in modern English), Chicago: Moody.
8* This is the extraordinary autobiography of Bunyan’s years of terrible struggle with depression and doubting his salvation (Bunyan is the author of the huge classic Pilgrim’s Progress).

Lewis, C. S. 1962. The problem of pain. NY: MacMillan.
10* This is vintage Lewis, dealing primarily with the theological issues rather than how to practically deal with pain.

Sittser, Gerald L. 1996. A grace disguised: How the soul grows through loss. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
9* These are the theological ruminations and practical struggles of a man who lost his daughter, wife, and mother all in one car accident. The first half of the book is more personal both in describing his experience and in his gut reaction to it, so is better, more moving.

God’s Grace for Others (Mutual grace in the body)

Cooke, Joseph R. 1975. Free for the taking: The life-changing power of grace. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell.
10* Cooke gives a very clear and basic presentation of true grace in the context of the ungrace of evangelicalism.

Crabb, Larry. 1999. The safest place on earth: Where people connect and are forever changed. Nashville: Word.
8* Crabb encourages us to see that healing of hurts are best taken care of in church community rather than counseling.

Smedes, Lewis B. 1984. Forgive and forget: Healing the hurts we don’t deserve. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
10* Smedes has written a very good book in understanding all aspects of forgiveness from a practical perspective with many powerful illustrations.

Yancey, Philip, 1997. What’s so amazing about grace? Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
10* It is a well written book and rich with thoughts on grace.

Other books:

Nouwen, Henri J.M. 1996. Life of the beloved: Spiritual living in a secular world. New York: Crossroad.
8* Personable and well written, Nouwen is addressing a secular Jewish friend to guide him into spirituality without using Christian vocabulary. A basic gospel presentation except that it stops short of pointing explicitly to Christ.



Posted December 28, 2014 by janathangrace

7 responses to “GRACE BOOKS

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I came from a very legalistic church..certain clothes had to be public schools..a pure separation. My kids have suffered the most. We are still trying to heal. There was also abuse. I just discovered your sight. I pray God will help me through you. God Bless.

    • I am sorry for your pain and the suffering of your children. Legalism is endemic to our society, and though the church should be a voice of grace and healing in this bruising context, it often exacerbates the problem. May you find grace here and a new understanding of the God who loves us without measure or condition.

    • P. S. Perhaps the posts I have written that have the tag “grace” would be a good place for you to find encouragement.

  2. I found your blog through the obituary of your father’s death and hearing about your name change. I think sharing your journey of grace is such a blessing to people like me, my husband, and kids. We minister to families in the military, which is a legalistic microcosm of society in and of itself. Our denomination claims to show God’s grace, but it really depends on the individual church body as to whether that is true or not. I have long been a reader of Phillip Yancey. And in the past year or so I have read Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning. Their books have been part of the healing process. I thank you for your’s and Kimberly’s honesty.

    • Nancy, so glad that you have found grace in the writings of some great authors, and I’m glad you’ve found me here. Legalism is deeply ingrained in the American church and society and it will take us all banding together to fight against its incursions into our hearts. May you keep finding grace flowing into your daily lives.

  3. Though I have only read some of your book list, I would highly recommend the author Frederick Buechner. “Telling the Truth, The Gospel as Tradegy, Comedy & Fairy Tale” will give you another glimpse of grace. I think many tried to encourage your dad to understand being “real” as you did. NOW he sees!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: